Former Naval Vessels
Liberty ship was the name given to the EC2 type ship designed for "Emergency" construction by the United States Maritime Commission in World War II. Liberty ships, nicknamed "ugly ducklings" by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The first of the 2,751 Liberty ships was the SS Patrick Henry, launched on Sept. 27, 1941, and built to a standardized, mass produced design. The 250,000 parts were pre-fabricated throughout the country in 250-ton sections and welded together in about 70 days. One Liberty ship, the SS Robert E. Peary was built in four and a half days. A Liberty cost under $2,000,000.
When the United States entered World War II at the end of 1941, it had the beginnings of a great merchant fleet. But the lethal U-Boats, submarines of the German Navy, prowled the shipping lanes hunting American merchant ships. The Liberty ships proved to be too slow and too small to carry the tons of supplies the United States and her Allies would need to win the war.
In 1943, the United States began a new ship-building program. These new ships would be faster, larger, and able to carry cargo long after the war was finished. These were the Victory ships. The Liberty and Victory ships fulfilled President Roosevelt's prophetic words, serving the nation well in war and peace. Today, of the thousands of Liberty ships and Victory ships built during World War II, only a handful remains.
Truth is often stranger than fiction, and in a journey that zig-zags its way through American history, this Liberty Ship's helm wheel now makes its home in land-locked Rolla. Ask any World War II historian and you'll learn that Liberty Ships played a major part in the US war effort. Standardized and mass-produced, these 441 foot long ships were pre-fabricated in 250 ton sections from 250,000 parts and welded together.
Nicknamed "ugly ducklings", even President Franklin D. Roosevelt said they were "dreadful looking objects". Yet, they could carry incredible loads! According to one of the many web-sites keeping naval history alive, the 5 holds of a Liberty could carry 2,840 jeeps, 440 tanks, or 230 million rounds of rifle ammunition.
Long time Rolla resident Bosco Eudaly recalls serving on one of the 2,751 ships made during the war. Eudaly joined the navy after a boyhood friend went down on the battleship Arizona during the Pearl Harbor attack. Assigned to the Liberty ship USS Cassiopeia, he helped supply war necessities to New Zealand, Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands.
With Eudaly aboard, the Cassy (as her crew members named her) was present at the battle of Leyte Gulf. Marking the first time the Japanese used Kamikaze pilots, this massive battle involved more ships, planes and men than any battle ever fought.
Ending the war with three Battle Stars and 4 Campaign Medals, the Cassiopeia met the fate of many Liberty Ships and was sunk in 1961 by a torpedo from a US Navy submarine as part of a target practice exercise. However, all is not lost. The ship's helm wheel had been removed before the sinking and was presented as a gift to the captain of the USS Cutlass, the submarine responsible for the Cassy's demise.
Technology not even dreamed of during World War II now plays a part in the story. While learning to use a search engine on the internet, Eudaly's wife Tina found that the wheel was still in existence 45 years after the ship's sinking. After arriving at its new Rolla home, family members presented the wheel to Bosco Eudaly as an 81st birthday gift.
Speaking of the wheel, Eudaly remembers that it got a workout. "To avoid submarine attack, we had to change course every 7 minutes. That is how long it took for a Japanese torpedo crew to lock in on their target, so every few minutes the wheel operator would zig-zag the ship through the South Pacific waters all the way to our destination. It's great to finally take the wheel of the Cassy!" he adds.
Once you have served in a vessel, you remember the experience forever, its motion in a seaway, its sounds during the midwatch, its excitement during the call to General Quarters. You are reminded forever of your friends, and of the sacrifice of shipmates during battle, fires, or storms at sea. These experiences become a part of your life, and many veterans end up loving the ships in which they served. This brings them back to see "their" ship or ones like it and to want to preserve them for others to see.
If during your visit to one of these vessels, you begin to sense these connections, you will understand why sailors go down to the sea in ships and why they must return to the sea time after time. If, in modern times, people forget our connection to the sea, they will be ignoring much of what brought our nation into being and made it great.
There are about 120 ship museums across the United States. Many retired ships offer overnight stays aboard the boat and other demonstrations that require more than just a casual visit. I would invite you to return to a time of bravery and adventure and relive the many thrilling stories that played out aboard these ships, even if your time is limited and your stay short. It is important that we support the dedicated efforts of the many volunteers whose work enables us to visit these ships. Naval veterans would want us to maintain and interpret these vessels, as a source of patriotism and inspiration for the naval service.
Something about ships accentuates the human experience, most obviously because of the breadth of activity that has taken place within such small spaces. Crewmen, especially aboard warships, did not have an inch to waste, and the social microcosms of shipboard life come alive in each vessel. You don't have to be a sailor to appreciate their beauty and efficiency. See a ship. Fair winds and following seas to all who do.
The USS Constitution - The queen of all historic American naval ships is "Old Ironsides," so called not because her hull is iron but because her sturdy wood construction consistently deflected enemy shot. Today, the oldest commissioned U.S. Navy ship afloat - she was launched in 1798.
The USS Constellation in Baltimore's Inner Harbor continues to be at the center of a dispute: Is she one of the nation's original frigates or merely the only surviving Civil War-era sloop of war? Because she was reconstructed as a smaller ship in 1854, current experts tend toward the latter. Whichever side you favor, the renovated sloop is still very much worth visiting. A short walk from the Constellation are the World War II submarine Torsk, the Coast Guard cutter Taney, and the lightship Chesapeake. There's also the Liberty ship SS John W. Brown, which makes swing-music cruises in the summer on the Chesapeake Bay.
This Union gunboat was the first ship sunk by an electrically detonated torpedo (mine). On December 12, 1862, the USS Cairo went down some seven miles north of Vicksburg, Mississippi, on the Yazoo River. The ironclad was raised in the 1960s, and today her remains and a museum housing artifacts from the vessel are part of the Vicksburg National Military Park.
The centerpiece at the Independence Seaport Museum is the cruiser USS Olympia, George Dewey's flagship at the 1898 Battle of Manila Bay. The ship is on the Philadelphia waterfront beside the submarine USS Becuna, which completed five war patrols in the Pacific during World War II. A ferry trip across the Delaware River is required to visit the battleship USS New Jersey, in Camden, New Jersey.
For deep immersion in naval history, don't miss Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum. Included in the collection are the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (World War II's "Fighting Lady"), the destroyer Laffey (known as "the Ship That Would Not Die"), the Cold War submarine Clamagore, and the Coast Guard cutter Ingham. Also on display are naval aircraft, including a flight simulator; a replicated naval support base from the Vietnam War; and a Medal of Honor Museum. The complex, is across the harbor from Charleston, South Carolina.
With a name like Battleship Cove, how could any naval enthusiast resist? In Fall River, Massachusetts, on Mount Hope Bay, are two World War II veterans - the battleship USS Massachusetts and the submarine Lionfish - the destroyer Joseph P. Kennedy (with the Admiral Arleigh Burke National Destroyermen's Museum on board), and the Soviet-built missile corvette Hiddensee.
Visitors cannot visit the actual ships that sank at Pearl Harbor, but the Arizona Memorial is a must to get a feel for the enormity of the event. In this vessel alone, 1,177 crew members lost their lives, and many remain entombed here. Also in Pearl Harbor are the submarine Bowfin and the recently added battleship Missouri, site of the Japanese surrender in 1945.
Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry opened a new exhibit in 2005 featuring the German submarine U-505. Forced to the surface by American destroyer escorts in June 1944, the U-boat was captured (the only time that ever happened) and brought back to the United States.
The battleship Wisconsin, a veteran of conflicts from World War II to Operation Desert Storm, is an exclamation point to the waterfront of downtown Norfolk, Virginia. She's in mothballs now, but the battlewagon is one of the most popular attractions of Nauticus. The aircraft carrier Midway opened recently in San Diego, California. Like the Wisconsin, she fought from World War II to Desert Storm and now contains more than 40 exhibits and 21 restored naval aircraft.
A group of individuals representing a number of former naval vessels established the Historic Naval Ships Association (HNSA). Its purpose is to facilitate the exchange of information and provide mutual support among those who are working hard to maintain their aging vessels physically and financially. The ships of HNSA are located not only in the nation's coastal seaports, but on lakes and rivers far from the sea, in the midst of the United States, as well as in Canada, western Europe and Australia. To visit one of these ships is to experience a time warp, being taken back fifty, sixty, or more years, to a time when these warriors were the latest ships of their type. Many were on the front lines at sea during World War II and continued their service into the Cold War era, serving in the seas off Korea and Vietnam. Taking a tour, your senses reawaken the past. You see, touch, smell, and hear the ship much as it was during its glory days when the crew took her to sea, risked their lives and put her in harm's way for their nation's defense.
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